In an effort to improve the state’s response and treatment of oil spills, State Representative Lois Wolk proposed Assembly Bill 2911, a bill that will require better advance recruitment, training and coordination of wildlife specialists and volunteers. The bill, however, is under suspense file, a process to determine the cost implications of a piece of legislation.
“Any bill with any state cost is being sent under suspense file for review, even if there is an existing source of funding,” Wolk said.
Response to oil spills and treatment requires a lot of money.
“Everything associated with oil spills cleanup does cost a lot of money because it is an emergency response,” said Michael Ziccardi, the director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and UC Davis associate professor of veterinary medicine. “Anything associated with the effort is based needing to have readiness 24 hours a day.”
Currently, California has 12 facilities and 25 different organizations for oil spills, Ziccardi said.
“Because [the different facilities and organizations] are in place, it reduces the costs of oil spills,” he added.
Even though there are a lot of volunteers available, most of them don’t have the proper training to help out, Wolk said.
“One of the problemsis the state is not able to take advantage of the volunteers that can help out because they don’t have the proper training for it,” she said.
AB 2911 can contain oil spills quicker, which is key, said associate professor of evolution and ecology Jay Stachowicz.
“The bill is made for rapid response,” he said. “It’s important to save the animals and they die quickly in a short amount of time.”
Quick response to oil spills can help marine life in several ways, especially for birds, said professor and acting director of the Bodega Marine Lab at UC Davis Gary Cherr.
“The oil spill affects the birds’ ability to keep cold water from their body,” he said. “They usually end up with hypothermia, but they also try to clean oil off their body and end up ingesting it. And the oil themselves are very toxic and the bird can be poisoned.”
AB 2911 will provide quick responses to oil spills, which can prevent more damage to the ecosystem and birds, Cherr said.
“The bill will result in a more rapid response for cleanup,” he said. “With oil, once it spreads, it disperses. It’s impossible to clean it up.”
Cleaning up oil spills can be costly and requires a lot of time.
“Collecting the animals and cleaning them off is a pretty long process,” Stachowicz said. “It’s a hand process to clean up individual birds. Once the oil has coated the seals or birds, the only way to save them is to take the birds one by one and put them in rehabilitation, which takes a lot of people.”
AB 2911 will provide additional funds that can expand involvement in oil spills.
“[AB] 2911 provides us with additional funds and can replicate the excellent program we have for animal care,” Ziccardi said.
The last day for the Fiscal Committee to meet and report bills introduced will be May 23.
JANET HUNG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org